My dad was a man who exhibited humility in all he did.He was truly a man to admire.
Many people who grew up during the Great Depression were poor and my father was no different. He resided in a mostly agricultural area. His home was basically a family compound with grandma and grandpa living in one house, my dad, his two brothers and parents in another and my aunt and uncle who owned a farm in yet another home.
I was given few details of this era and the role my father played in it. I do know his particular weapon was one of the deadliest…a .30 caliber water-cooled machine gun M1917A1. He talked about the headhunters and how he would watch their silhouettes with spears and shields as he pulled guard duty at night. The oddity in it all was that the headhunters knew who their allies were and they hated the Japanese soldiers. Dad mentioned how he would dig a foxhole and then set up for battle. During one particular fire fight, bullets flying and under a curtain of ungodly noise a little monkey climbed in the foxhole and wrapped its terrified body around my father. That little monkey….a ray of hope and sunshine during the time of tests for survival and bravery….that monkey stayed with dad until the war ended. He sneaked the monkey under his shirt as the ship sailed from Japan to Hawaii . There was a damn near mutiny on board as the naval officers wanted to throw the monkey overboard. The men in my father’s unit informed those officers, “This here monkey has seen more combat then you could ever imagine.” The monkey stayed until Hawaii and was left with a G.I. who was staying behind.
So that was it. My dad had pretty much left the rest of his past behind, until a time years later when my father picked up my friend Paul and me at the theater after we had seen a war movie. Of course, my friend and I couldn’t wait to go home and re-enact what we had seen. Paul and I were in the backseat when Paul asked, “So, Mr. Page, how many people did you kill in the war?” The eerie silence was deafening as my father, my role model and my hero, took a moment, cleared his throat and adjusted the rear view mirror in the car. I watched one lonely, sad and sorrowful tear roll down his cheek as he looked Paulie in the eye and his exact words, in a trembling voice uttered, ” I would like to think I never hurt anyone.”
I was born in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey during the time my father had reenlisted during the Korean War. Years later my mom asked my dad if he wanted to be buried in Arlington. His response came as no surprise when he said, “Rose, Arlington is a place for people much more deserving than I am.” Instead, my dad is now laid to rest in a Veterans Cemetery on the same road where he grew up.
Even though our country is divided by political bickering and a lot of hate filled nonsense, there is one cornerstone we can always rely on and that is the sacrifice and service our military gives us. Please thank a veteran and appreciate them for keeping us free.